Permanence

Megan is exhausted by the time she moves the last piece of inherited furniture into her new home.  She is alone.  Her friends left her with only affirmations of how great the place is.  She surveys the U-Haul boxes and the furniture that lay scattered about her living room and soon finds herself frantically searching for the one labeled “Kitchen Stuff” that contains a corkscrew with which to open the cheap bottle of wine her mom dropped off earlier in the afternoon.  Two glasses in, she craves a cigarette.

At her old place, she always relied on the pack of Export A Silver in the freezer behind the ever-present bag of frozen peas.  Cigarettes from that pack were cool and tasted, she thought, like freezer burned beef jerky.  She now regrets her decision to throw the pack, along with the peas, in the garbage instead of putting it in her cooler along with the other things which she, at the time, considered worth salvaging.  She pours herself another glass of wine almost to the brim this time and sits on a cardboard box.

The usual distractions are not available to her.  The TV, still unplugged, lies lifeless in the corner: its sleeping eye obstinately facing the white wall like the face of a disciplined child.  Her stereo is in a box somewhere.  Her phone, dead at the bottom of her purse.  There are no pictures upon the walls and the windows, now dark, become distorted mirrors.  She traces the red, circular outline her glass has left on the cardboard box in front of her before running her fingers through her greasy hair.

At 26, Megan is one of the most successful partners in her Agency.  Her strategy is simple: she targets young, affluent families who, without her insight, would have no idea about the importance of a good insurance plan.  It is easy to instill fear into the bleeding hearts of new parents, regaling them with horror stories about the fates of the uninsured.  Her father, an insurance salesman for over 30 years, taught her well.  At only 22, Megan bought her first condo; this house is the next logical step.

The bottle now empty, she slides along the polished hardwood to the bathroom.  The light, at first, makes her squint.  She thinks to herself that first thing tomorrow morning she will make a trip to the Home Depot to find a softer bulb; she has never cared for the energy saving variety that make her look much older than she is.  The bathroom is the only room in the place she has had time to organize.  Her soaps and shampoos are lined up along the porcelain rim of the bathtub and her exfoliating scrubby hangs from the shower head.

Beside the sink is a wicker basket full of a random assortment of brushes, tampons, shower gels, bath beads, Q Tips and other essentials.  She goes through the box, absent mindedly reading the labels of the various products until she finds a plain brown box; a surge of adrenaline quickens her heart.

She has done this for as long as she can remember; even before she got her first period, she bled.  The scars of her first cuts, though faded, lay beside more recent wounds like half forgotten memories.  She has always concealed her habit behind the elastic waist of her panties; scars lined up like soldiers: a permanent belt.  The razor blade wrapper falls delicately upon the linoleum and she pulls her pants down.

Megan has done extensive research about people like herself, who like to cut themselves; she doesn’t identify with any of them.  She is most certainly not trying to distract herself from any kind of emotional trauma, or anything of that nature when she does it.  She has never contemplated suicide, never been depressed.

The blood tickles as it runs down her body.  She lies down and watches it slowly gel and then harden.  She has always loved the taste of it.  She collects the little trail behind the bead with her index finger and puts it to her mouth as she closes her eyes.  She is fully in her body now; her perceptions piqued.

So far, every one of her lovers has been disturbed upon finding her secret.  One of them even put his clothes back on before he literally ran out of the room.  She never tries to coax them into coming back, and just smiles when they call her a freak.  She decided long ago that she would not forsake this ritual for any man and though she has come to expect the negative reaction, it still confuses her.

What could possibly be more beautiful than a scar?  A secret, a story shared between lovers.  She looks forward to the day when someone is curious enough to talk about it, to find out that she is not a distressed maniac.  The cuts, no matter how drunken, have never travelled above or below her waist line, have never become exaggerated, or out of control.  She is quite simply one who likes to be present, who appreciates the contrast between cold linoleum and warm blood as she does, right now.

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